An artist’s studio is in a sense their second home, filled with works in progress and stacks of rough sketches and material that might one day become something more.
More than 20 Sacandaga Valley artists will open their studios this weekend as part of the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network’s Art Trails event. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, people can take a self-guided tour of studios spanning from Sammonsville all the way up to Wells.
In the latter town, visitors will find the sprawling studios of Caroline Ramersdorfer and John Van Alstine. The two internationally-renowned sculptors, who are married, have set up shop in the former Adirondack Lumber Yard, which was in operation in the mid-nineteenth century.
Across eight acres of land stand six buildings, which the artists have worked to restore. There’s also a sculpture park featuring their work. They have studios on opposite sides of the grounds; Ramersdorfer works in what was once a sawmill, while Alstine works in the former carpentry shop.
Ramersdorfer was born in Austria and studied in Paris and Italy. She moved to Wells full-time in 2009, though she still maintains a studio in Austria as well. Throughout her career, she’s been commissioned to create large, site-specific sculptures at more than 17 international symposia, including in Japan, Taiwan, Canada, China and Abu Dhabi among others.
Ramersdorfer, who often works with marble and granite, is always looking inward and exploring interior spaces.
“I always was very interested in finding the core of things. . . I always liked to open up things and find, not necessarily Pandora’s box, which also can happen, but find the amazing crystalline capacities a stone has for example and the sparkle, just the geology of how many billions of years it took to actually [get there] and respect for that as well,” Ramersdorfer said.
Throughout the process of creating a sculpture, Ramersdorfer often starts by examining or thinking through the space that will surround the piece, then delves into finding the best materials for it and creating smaller-scale models before moving on to the final, large-scale piece.
While life slowed down for many during the pandemic, Ramersdorfer’s last year or two has been intense. During the last few days of 2019, she finished a sculpture in China and flew back home, just a week or so before the pandemic broke out. Then, she had two commissioned pieces to complete over the course of the year. One, which was eventually placed outside a Gloversville home, resembled a set of wings.
“It’s near a swimming pool so those two wings reflect in the pool and it shapes a heart. That was very much what I think was so important in those times of not knowing . . . what was going on. It was so soothing that it actually really reflected the heart in the water of the swimming pool,” Ramersdorfer said.
Lately, she’s been working on new pieces and ideas; her studio is filled with slabs of different stone materials she’s experimenting with.
“My work is extremely slow. I’m a very slow worker, my mind is very fast but I do realizations, I really take my time and I love taking my time because it’s such an amazing process,” Ramersdorfer said. “I just love . . . shaping and opening up, finding a union in the composition I’m [working] with sometimes just found slabs, which are broken and not very attractive in that moment but then, the question is you see the attraction or what makes this now part of a whole sculptural idea. I think that’s when it becomes interesting.”
She’s been part of SVAN for the last five years or so and has found that the Art Trails are a great opportunity to meet other local artists.
“It’s really amazing how many [people] are creative and active up in the neighborhood,” Ramersdorfer said.
For Janene Bouck, a Broadalbin artist and owner of Silent Jane Salvage Studio, the event is a chance to help with outreach.
“I feel that Art Trails is great exposure for my studios and to let people see what I do because I do so many varied things that explanations sometimes aren’t the same as visiting in person,” Bouck said.
Her artistic background is diverse. She’s a photographer who does everything from real estate photography to photo restoration to her own artistic compositions. Beyond that, she works with multi-media decorative and wearable arts.
In the last year, driven by the loss of her son just before the pandemic hit, she’s begun to create assemblages. She often uses meaningful objects that don’t necessarily have a purpose, like a single sneaker that belonged to her son.
“What am I going to do with one shoe that smells funny and doesn’t fit? I’m going to make a statement. I’m going to try to talk to people,” Bouck said.
Over the last year or so, she’s also done as much traveling as she could, taking photos of natural landscapes along the way.
“I love waiting for the light to fall on my natural subject to share it with you, just as it was in that perfect moment. It is a simple joy, and it brings me a feeling of lightness and freedom,” Bouck wrote in her artist statement.
As is the case with her photograph “Glove City Swamp,” Bouck perfectly captures the movement of blotchy clouds, with fog lifting from the water below as a bird is suspended in the sky.
Bouck, who is also on the board of SVAN, will display some of her photographs in the studio, along with some of her other works. Visitors can have their photographs taken by Bouck with several mannequins and props, which Bouck will then send to visitors via email.
Silent Jane Salvage is located at 201 County Highway 155, Broadalbin.
The Ramersdorfer/Alstine studios are located at 1293 State Highway 30, Wells.
Art Trails is supported by a Community Arts Grant from Saratoga Arts. For the full list of artists and studios on the trails, visit svanarts.org.